Monday, September 02, 2013

"Short Term 12": The street smarts it takes to raise "underprivileged" kids

Short Term 12” probably could have been titled “Step Up 12”, except that the young adults working in a Silicon Valley foster home had grown up in such circumstances themselves – we don’t know that at first.
  
Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.) are circumstantial fiancées, and they’ve had plenty of street experience to give them people skills and bond together.  We see how much “hands on” – quite literally – work is involved in supervising the “underprivileged” kids.  In fact, the use of that word creates an early confrontation when another coworker Nate (Rami Malek), a little less street savvy, uses it in a “group therapy” (or maybe “unit government”, as NIH called it in 1962) meeting with the “customers”.  Marcus (Keith Stanfield) is about to age out at 18, and have a birthday party.  He’s apprehensive, and chides Nate about that “u” word.  He also throws a curve, saying he wants to shave his legs on his birthday.  You wonder where the movie could go with this – maybe challenging male staff to do the same, and then making something of the likely declination.  In fact, there’s another boy Sammy (Alex Calloway) who is making much more out of his gender identity.  But even Sammy is a feint. The real attention will go to Jessica (Stephanie Beatriz), who has to be kept away from an abusive father.  Grace is the only person who gets it (even Jack (Frantz Turner), the pro in authority, just wants to follow the rules).  Grace has a similar problem: her own dad gets out of prison soon.  And she’s pregnant, but she and Mason certainly have the earthiness needed to be great parents.
  
Some of the anecdotes told by the characters in the movie are funny.  Mason, for example, one time had to “stalk” an escaped kid off campus to try to bring him back, leading to his soiling his own pants.  Jessica tells her situation in a short story about “free fish” with some bizarre social habits (imagine a shark asking an octopus friend to give it an arm whenever it is hungry).

Imagine growing up in a foster home, developing your soul from that environment. Personally, the movie sheds some light on why I had so much trouble as a substitute teacher dealing with certain kinds of kids.  
  
  
Cinedigm and Demarest Films give us this official site
  
I saw if before a fair gathering Labor Day night at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA.

Picture: Mine (Palm Springs CA, May, 2012) .

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